“Hair Forced”

rapunzel may the force

Rapunzel – May the Force Be With You!
The Merchants' Hall
11.30am till 25th August

On the face of it, Rapunzel meets Star Wars doesn’t seem like an obvious pairing. One’s about a princess famous for her unorthodox hairstyle; the other’s a grim tale about a woman locked in a tower. Rapunzel meets Star Wars works however because it simply has to.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from fairytales, it’s that marriages are always made in heaven. There is no acrimonious divorce because the regal couple always live happily ever after. Should Prince Charming prove to be a heartless cad like all the rest, there’s no wiggle room: it’s till death do us part or not at all.

If one were inclined to be cruel – and by ‘cruel’ read ‘brutally honest’ – it would be easy to take this production to task for any number of crimes: its non-sequiturs, muddled dialogue and sinister characters blessed with all the warmth of an eskimo’s kiss. Then there’s the fiendishly complex plot to fathom, which must be a first for an adaptation of Rapunzel.

There’s smoking in front of your kids bad, and then there’s Rapunzel’s mum bad.

Don’t tell that to the kids crammed into The Merchants‘ Hall however: they couldn’t care less about plot holes and 2-D characters because they’ve got lightsabers and lightsabers mask a multitude of sins. It wouldn’t matter if the stage was showing reruns of Dallas on a flickering black and white TV: so long as there are lightsabers for all, everything is forgiven.

As it happens, we’re treated not only to lightsabers, but a space-age show crammed with golden lettuces, cyborgs and witches. Things go bleep, machines whirr and smoke lingers ominously. Then there’s Rapunzel herself, stranded in the desert in her Tardis-like tower.

It seems churlish to devote an entire review to picking apart a show that was enjoyed by the young audience (even if their parents may have demurred). So let’s take a moment instead to consider the iniquity of Rapunzel’s adopted mum.

That woman – enchantress; witch – is as crazy as a box of frogs. She’s the original bad parent. Sure, modern-day parents don’t always shine, what with their propensity for allowing Netflix and Nick Jr to raise their kids, but at least they don’t lock them in a tower and force them to produce hair like sweat-shop silkworms. There’s smoking in front of your kids bad, and then there’s Rapunzel’s mum bad.

Fielding repeated shouts to ‘Let down your hair!’, Rapunzel’s role is reduced to that of a hirsute drawbridge. When the dashing Duke Skylord shows up to rescue the princess from her golden tower, she takes umbrage to his presumptuousness and shuns his kiss. Of course, marriage in fairytales is like arranged marriage in real life: you can protest all you like, but there’s no ducking out of it.

Eventually, Rapunzel succumbs to destiny and allows the Duke to put a ring on it. In fairytales, marriage always fixes everything: the arguments, the plot holes, the lot. If only it were that simple in real life.

—★★★—

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